Teaching on the Illinois Frontier

Today’s blog post looks at what it was really like to teach in rural Illinois in the 1850s. The JFA was founded as an institution to train teachers, but as of yet, I’ve not put my hands on any direct writings or reminisces of early JFA-educated teachers who clearly described their experiences as students and teachers. As a result, I’m here in Connecticut trying to piece together the bigger picture using other sources. Continue reading

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The Life of the Institution

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Range 2 of the Barnard Collection. Patrons are not typically allowed in the stacks, but Curator Rick Ring very graciously gave me tour.

One stipulation of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium fellowship is that I become involved in the life of the institutions I visit. On Monday, I spent the day at the Watkinson Library at Trinity College in Hartford. The Watkinson boasts an incredible collection of rare books, including the library of education reformer Henry Barnard. The Barnard collection alone consists of approximately 7,000 volumes related to education from about 1800 until 1880, and I’m there to see the text books adopted by the Jacksonville Female Academy. Thanks to Christian, the amazing student research assistant, I have a list of those books drawn from a sampling of catalogs over various decades. Continue reading

Infant Schools – or Daycare in 1830s Jacksonville

20151210_143513Last month, you read about women coming to Jacksonville in the 1830s to teach. This week, we’ll add one more to the list: Miss Caroline Blood. Her name first caught my eye when I found this ad, placed by Sarah Crocker in the Illinois Patriot on 19 October 1833. Just above it is an ad for an Infant School, taught by Miss Caroline Blood and held in the back of Mr. D.B. Ayre’s Druggist Shop (you may recall that Mr. Ayres was on the board of the JFA and later the superintendent of the Morgan County Alms House and Poor farm).  More than a woman trying to get by through taking in young children, Miss Blood was an important player in a national movement to establish the first preschools and daycares in the United States.  Continue reading

A Fire in Her Bones

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As its main selling point, this 1892 advertisement claims the JFA is the “oldest institution in the West for the education of young ladies.” My colleagues and I have often repeated this fact, but we have to ask: It this true? Is this really important? Why do they need to be first? Why to we need them to be first? If this isn’t true and they weren’t first, does that somehow devalue my research?

So let’s get one thing straight: the JFA was not first. But that’s okay because I’ve learned that this obsession over being at the front of the line obscures a much richer story about how women on the frontier created new communities.

Continue reading